Social Infrastructure

The development of social infrastructure around higher education is a necessary pre-condition for a successful social dimension. Although it would seem obvious that housing and food are basic requirements for students to be able to focus on their studies, in reality the current social infrastructure is rather complex and inadequate. The member unions of the European Students' Union identify significant problems with the availability and quality of student services overall. To choose but one example, the 2012 edition of Bologna with Students' Eyes (ESU 2012), 22 out of 32 National Unions of Students report dissatisfaction with availability and/or quality of student housing (ESU 2012). With regards to the Communiqués (e.g. EHEA 2005 or 2007), a commitment to provide adequate living conditions for students is given. However, these did not lead to a unified action or setting of commonly agreed targets. One obvious issue here is the purely national competence to work in this area and the lack of any means to influence higher education social infrastructures at the European Level. Agreeing to action on a European level will be difficult. However, this debate provides also the opportunity to discuss how far bodies such as the European Social Fund might be able to provide support.

Widening Participation Through Early Inclusion in Higher Education

In the past decade, the concept of Science and Society activities and Children's Universities has grown all over Europe with an actual participation of 530,000 children per year (Gary and Iber 2014, May). So far, just 16 % of Children's Universities name widening participation and awareness-raising as a goal for their activities (Gary and Iber 2014, May). EU projects like 'SiS Catalyst: Children as change agents for science and society' and the European Children's University Network can be seen as drivers to increase the targeting towards social inclusion: 'Opportunities for systemic change leading to more inclusive higher education will be unleashed through Children's Universities and other new approaches' (SiS Catalyst 2014). This illustrates the potential that Children's Universities and other Science and Society activities could offer the social dimension. Early contacts with children before social segregation begins to impact or overwhelm children's ambitions might help improve access to higher education among groups which are missing or underrepresented in the current student population of the EHEA.

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